Monday, July 31, 2006

Toy Store Owners Killed

I just read some shocking news on the Where Date Palms Grow blog that the Jelawi Store has shut down because its three owners were killed. La hawla wa la quatta illa billah. This store is the only store I've seen in Baghdad that sells high quality baby and children products/toys and better quality houseware. I've shopped there many times for my one year old daughter; got her a set of Legos from there, some crib toys and her walker. So it was quite shocking for me to hear this news of the store that is just a few minutes drive from my house.
Apparently the three brothers who own the store were murdered, and the store closed down.
Zappy writes:
One of the Gelawi Boys was interviwed some time ago by the Baghdad Sattilite Channel he was asked why have you not shut down your shop and fled the country. He answered that where should I go? I love my country and I like to keep the smile on the Children’s faces.

Two weeks ago the three Gelawi Brothers were assassinated inside their Shop.

The Terrorist succeeded in closing the largest toy shop in Baghdad.

Another blow to life in Baghdad.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

6000 Dead in Two Months

In the past weeks, news sources have been reporting that 6,000 Iraqis have been killed in the past two months in Iraq. Six Thousand!!! That's about 100 random killings daily. That's a crazy number of innocent lives extinguished for no good reason. No regard for human life and their God-given dignity. No regard for the rules of man and even less for those of God. And all of this a result of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq in the aftermath of its 'liberation' by the US of A. All of this a result of the misplanning of one group of policy makers and the ignorance of another. All of this under the new 'security plan' that Maliki thought would save Iraq. The security plan whose most palpable effects on the regular Baghdadi are the greater number of security checkpoints (hence, traffic jams) and the curfew starting at sunset, 8:30 pm, too early for people who need to go out and do something different, despite of, or because of, the suffocating circumstances they live under. The curfew which makes life more suffocating than it already is. The curfew that was supposed to keep killers from killing and carbombers from bombing. The curfew that did nothing, but left 6000 innocents dead in a very short time period. 6000 dead, and counting. 6000 dead in Iraq, and how many more in Lebanon and Palestine?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Great Post on Situation in Lebanon

The situation in Lebanon and Gaza greatly pains everyone, but for Iraqis, it hits home in a very personal way. Read Baghdad Treasure's latest post on this.
One of our family friends in the States travelled to Lebanon this past month with her husband and four young children. She left the kids with her family and took a little side vacation to Morocco with her husband. The bombing started soon after, and now she's stuck somewhere far from her elementary school age children, regretting her little time off and scared to death over their safety.
May this craziness stop soon, and may the lives off all innocents be spared.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tragic Violence-UPDATE

There's been some crazy sectarian violence occuring in Baghdad in the past few days. The main round of violence occured in the Jihad district, where random Shiite militia-men set up checkpoints and IDed drivers and passengers passing through. Those with Sunni names were killed and thrown onto the street. Al Jazeera Channel showed Adnan al Dulaimi (of the Sunni Tawafuq political bloc) presenting pictures in a press conference held on Monday of men in Iraqi police uniform standing at the deathly checkpoints with these militia-men. They put the responsibility of the more than 50 civilian deaths (in this mostly Sunni neighborhood) on the Al Mahdi 'Army,' a militia led by Muqtada Al Sadr and its infiltrators in the Iraqi security forces. When I heard of the news from my mother in law watching al Jazeera (Monday), I searched Iraqi blogs looking for more info. I did not find anything but a quick mention here. I found more info at this article and this blog.

Now in a tragic, yet not unexpected turn of events, Sunni gunmen have started 'avenging' their dead. Tragedy has hit close to home for us. I have mentioned before my husband's uncle in law, Uncle S, whose kidnapping story is mentioned here. I also mentioned that Uncle S, a Shiite married to a Sunni, had to leave his home in the Sunni district of Amiriya because of the violence against Shiites there. Uncle S has been in hiding since the beginning of May, when a man was killed and dumped right in front of their home, and when his Shiite neighbor was killed in his store.

In a sad twist of events, it was not Uncle S who was targetted, but his brother, F. This past week, while F was working in his metal store in the Yarmouk district (also a highly Sunni neighborhood), two men drove by and shot him. Uncle S and the rest of the family are torn up over his murder. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'oon. May he rest in peace and may his murderers receive their justice soon.

Riverbend recently wrote a post about this situation and other atrocities occuring in Iraq.

Update Two: My husband was telling me that two 'kids'-about 15 years old, were the killers! Horrific! Two teenagers decide that they're mad, and decide to kill an innocent man working in the 'wrong' neighborhood. They drive by, commit their crime, and go on with life. No fear that they will be caught. No need to go underground. No need to keep their eyes open for a police investigation. And a dead man's family mourns his unexpected death.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Rising Fuel Costs

Fuel prices have risen like crazy here in the States, and likewise back in Baghdad. I remember last summer, my husband and I wanted to fuel up our rental car (in Virginia), but the nearest gas station price was $2.33 per gallon of regular gas. A couple of weeks later, the prices had risen to $3.09 per gallon, and now they're around $3.22 per gallon. Here's a little excerpt from my journal of an adventure we had back in December 2005 when fuel prices first started rising in Baghdad.
Sunday December 25, 2005
Assalamu alaykum. On Friday night, we had an interesting scare here in our neighborhood. (Hubby) and I were spreading the carpet in our extra bedroom (5 month old Suma had just gotten to sleep after a hectic day) when we heard a really loud, close explosion around 7:15ish pm. We were surprised, but went on with our work (I actually heard a closer explosion after the first one, but (hubby) didn’t; so I figured something might be up). (Hubby) decided to go upstairs (onto the roof) and see if he could see anything. He came back down and told me to get dressed quickly and to bring Sumy. I was like, “Why? She just went to sleep.” He said that the kerosene tank in the gas station (very close to our house) had exploded and there were huge flames shooting up. The whole street was leaving, out of fear that the rest of the benzene tanks would catch on fire, and possibly affect our houses. (When we left the house, I saw the huge flames burning in the not so distant horizon. It was quite scary seeing such a huge fire, so close by, but at the time, I thought that this was a natural accident, due to lack of safe conditions. I did not think that it was the work of insurgents).
We went to (hubby’s) aunt’s house (Amma Suad), (continued on February 11) and got back home after 10 pm. The fire was still raging, and stayed that way until after 1 am. But alhamdulillah, it didn’t spread.
(June 12, 2006): We later found out that some arsonist had set fire to this station and to other stations, protesting rising gas/diesel/kerosene costs.

After decades of Saddam clamping down on their right to free speech, some Iraqis have become quite expressive in their forms of protest.

Monday, July 03, 2006

What? Right to Legal Representation?

A couple of days before I travelled out of Baghdad, the third defense lawyer in Saddam's case was killed. In the US, we take it for face value that defendents have a right to legal representation, that they are innocent until proven guilty. We also take it for face value that a lawyer representing a known criminal is not himself guilty of the crimes of his defendents. The same is not true in Baghdad.

I was reading a post by Iraqi blogger, Ishtar, on the murder of Khamis Al-Ubaidi, one of Saddam's defense lawyers. His wife told her of his murder:
We were at home, Khamis was in his bed, when more than 15 armed man stormed our house at 7 am, wearing civil uniform and grabbed Khamis from his bed. I asked them who are you? They told me “we are the security of the Ministry of Interior.”
Did khamis tell you anything before he leaves?
They did not let him say a word but they turned to me and said “ We warn you and any member of his family to go to the forensic department and take his body, all of you will be killed.” All I want now is to take Khamis body and leave with my three kids.

Ishtar goes on to write:
Khamis body later on found in Sader city, tortured severely, an eye witness from the city itself said “ Khamis body was on the ground, any one passes by give it a bullet among shouts of condemnation for any person defends Saddam.”

In another article, I read, "This is the fate of those who defend Saddam Hussein," said an onlooker who was among those who had gathered at the police station where his body was brought.
Another man in the crowd said: "Let Saddam save him now if he can."

This is the same mentality that I met with when I mentioned the killing of the first Saddam lawyer to my cleaning lady back in October of 2005. Um Majid is a Shiite lady married to a Sunni, living in the predominately Shiite Sadr City. When I mentioned to her the killing of the 'poor lawyer' she surprised me with her statement that he deserved it for defending the criminal Saddam. I started explaining to her that he was innocent of Saddam's crimes, and perhaps even against Saddam's actions. But as a lawyer, he was giving this man his right to legal representation.
Um Majid went off on all the crimes that Saddam committed against her own district of Sadr City. I realized that I was at a dead end, but it took me off guard. I did not think that I would have to convince my cleaning lady of the lawyer's innocence. I did not think that others, other than his killers, thought his blood was okay to spill, just because he was defending Saddam. But apparently from these other articles, this is a predominate thought held by those personally hurt by Saddam's regime. I just hope that any other lawyers living in the 'Red Zone' do decide to move into a more secure area, for their own safety.